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New Crop in the Garden: Cannabis for home gardeners

by | Oct 16, 2018 | GARDENING | 4 comments

New Crop in the Garden: Cannabis

This week a new crop comes out of the closet and opens up new possibilities to gardeners everywhere. And so I tried growing cannabis myself this summer just to see if it was easy or complex. Hint: If you are a new gardener I suggest you start with Orchids or Tomatoes or Quinoa. Try anything except Cannabis. It is a crop with a lot to teach us and I think you might want to develop a certain skill level with general gardening before you jump in and try to grow this trendy new crop.

Lesson Learned: Seedling Plants are transformers. They change their form as they grow.

When the seeds germinated within a week I felt confident I was on my way to producing the best crop ever with only one small problem. The seedling plants looked a lot like a weed I have grown by accident: stinging nettle. It was a few more weeks before I realized the plant was forming it’s trademark palmate leaves.

The first “true” set of leaves on Cannabis looked like the Stinging Nettle weed.


Like Cannabis, Quinoa looks like a weed when it first comes up. For the first few weeks, Quinoa looks like it’s close relative:  Lamb’s Quarters.

Lesson Learned: Seedlings are either boys or girls and you only want the girls

So to begin at the beginning I got seeds from a friend and I found out how raising Cannabis from seed is a lot like raising chickens. There are roosters and hens. And if you are serious about getting your own eggs or creating your own highs, only the female chicks and female cannabis will give you what you want. The male birds and plants have to be removed as soon as possible from the litter to be successful.


Male plants have dingle-ball flowers according to one of my sources. The male plants have to be removed as soon as they are spotted or they will pollinate female plants and ruin the “crop”

Lesson Learned: Seedlings given enough water and fertilizer grow fast and sometimes through the roof. If you have limited space start with a “cutting” instead of a seed, because it will grow to a known size. Cuttings or clones are specific in ultimate size and potency while seedlings are a wild card

When the cannabis crop started growing in earnest I felt successful. I used  a self-watering pot purchased from The Growing Connection. These pots have a water reservoir so you don’t have to run out to the grow-room to keep topping up water levels. They also have a fixed amount of fertilizer added at the beginning to get a normal vegetable crop through to harvest. Unfortunately, seed-started cannabis is unlike any other “ordinary” crop. It  is greedy and fast growing. It exceeded the height and growth of any plant I have ever grown in less time than I expected and by June it ran out of nutrients and I ran out of patience. I had a choice. Start force feeding this plant that had already reached the roof and was growing out the vents, or cut it off and toss it out. I chose to cut it off and through it out.

Seed-started cannabis may grow extremely tall extremely fast. This one plant ran out of growing space and fertilizer by July so I chopped it up and tossed it into the compost. When lower leaves on any plant turn evenly pale yellow it is a sign the nitrogen fertilizer is all used up. These plants needed more fertilizer to keep them growing but I chose to remove them instead.

Meanwhile a plant I was gifted as a clone was planted in later May about the same time you might put a tomato out in your garden. Clones are predictable. You know in advance the size and sex so they are easier for a beginner grower to handle.

Lesson Learned: Clones are predictable and often shorter in stature

Clones are more manageable in size and are always female. This female bud is starting to form in early August on a plant barely three feet tall (1 metre).

Lesson Learned: High Humidity causes powdery mildew and funky flowers before harvest

As the female buds started forming my “consultants” told me to wait as long as possible before harvesting to get the most powerful buds. This made sense. They suggested waiting for the white buds to start turning amber so I left plants as is in the garden while I took a short holiday.

Lesson Learned: A day makes a big difference. From perfection to disaster in days when fans moving air are shut down

From perfection to disaster in a few days. Every step of the way your cannabis crop needs your time and attention. Here you can see the brown mold growing on the buds. My consultants had advised me to watch out for powdery mildew on leaves but I never got that. Instead the whole bud moulded while I was out of town for a week in September.

Lesson Learned: These plants need your ongoing care and attention

Is growing cannabis right for you? Are you a seriously committed grower? Have you had plenty of experience getting the soils and fertilizer and airflow perfected so the plant is in a state of constant growing perfection? If not, leave this crop to the pros. I removed the plants when most of the buds were at peak potential and tossed them out. I could have dried them or saved some of the crop but I had no need. I didn’t want to grow this crop for any other reason than to see how it grows.

And growing this crop allows me to confidently say if you want to try growing your four plants in your own garden remember the lessons learned here. This plant is quite simply not as easy to grow as a weed and unless you have a passion for it focus your time and growing area on raising something you love. Like carrots or broccoli or even good old fashioned potatoes. Every year I grow new plants and the new growing experience I gained from growing cannabis is not a loss. It is good to know.

This year I successfully grew and harvested Sesame. It was fun and easy and actually pretty in the garden. But best of all – it didn’t smell like a skunk.

Lesson Learned: Cannabis coming into bloom smells like a skunk, makes my eyes water, and ruins the gardening experience for me.

What I love to do in the garden is discover new plants and try things I have never grown before. When I first grew Quinoa I was excited and thrilled to be growing a crop I normally buy. When I first grew Sesame I was delighted by the pretty pink flowers and the huge seed harvest. When I first grew cannabis I was disgusted by the stink of the plant. It made my eyes water and ruined the gardening experience for me.

If you want to try growing a challenging crop in 2019 I suggest Broccoli or Cauliflower or Cucumbers. Cannabis is not something I ever need to grow ever again. THE END

PS Feel free to comment and let me know what new plants you tried this year! What was your favourite and what would you never grow again? I love hearing from you! 2018 is the first year you can start growing cannabis but why bother? Love what you grow and grow what you love. And don’t get me started on all the after care your crop will need if you do decide to grow your own buds. Like olives from tree to salad, cannabis from plant to toke is a long journey. Even though it is legal on October 17, 2018 to grow your own four plants in Canada ask yourself  this question. Are you willing to take the long ride from seed or cutting to harvest and aftercare when there are so many other things you could be growing?

Even though it looks like a weed, Quinoa is a pretty little plant ready to harvest in early fall.

If you are looking for a personal growing challenge try growing clean cauliflower without the help of insecticides or covers. This, to me, is a perfect gardening challenge and it makes me smile.



PS Do you have questions about Gardening? Join in the conversation on my facebook live event every Monday by clicking right HERE.

 Donna Balzer is the Brand Ambassador for BCGreenhouse Builders and she has two greenhouses in her big backyard.

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  1. Worth reading Donna!
    You’ve crafted it in a way that seems like a direct shot in terms of understanding. Yeah, i was looking for this kind of information afterall.
    Love from an indoor farmer.

  2. And a comment came from Monny via email!
     “One of my neighbours on this property has been cultivating [cannabis] for years.  He grows only female plants, and most people who grow this stuff do “cloning” (which to my gardening mind is “cuttings”, exactly as one might propagate geraniums or houseplants.) So a superior plant provides the starters for the next season. For variety, he procured some seeds from the Compassion Club this spring, and though they successfully germinated, more than half produced male plants.” 

  3. LOL! Thanks Amanda. I guess I did make it sound a bit tough to grow eh? Actually my seed-started plant was massive and filled my whole greenhouse. I just wanted to make sure reader’s know it is super stinky when in bloom and does take some maintenance – it is not a low-maintenance plant that is for sure. I agree Cannabis is similar to growing tomatoes and you will definitely have to let me know how you make your tincture. I heard it was possible with a crock pot and coconut oil but have not tried it yet.

  4. Interesting that you had such a difficult time growing a plant, Donna. We grew one this summer that is now almost ready to harvest. It was outside in the soil until early September when the nights started to be too cool, and then we dug it out and brought it in to finish under grow lights. We have a fan going constantly for air circulation. Our plant is not nearly as tall as yours was, maybe a different cultivar? So far we have found growing a cannabis plant similar to growing tomatoes. They both need maintenance and nutrients, but it hasn’t been too bad. I’m hoping to make a tincture or salve from the leaves once we harvest the buds.

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